Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 28th
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Best Shot

GT012314Two local wedding photographers prove that love and creativity are a powerful mix

It may not be News at 11, but it’s worth noting—especially during wedding planning season —that love sparks creativity. (And, quite often the other way around, too.)

That has certainly been the case for one young, local couple, Jeff and Doriana Hammond, who, after just a few months of meeting in Santa Cruz County back in 2009, fell in love—and then tossed aside their conventional “day jobs” for a creative stint in El Salvador, which lasted nearly a year.

Upon returning in 2010, they decided to follow their bliss and launch a business as photographers—or, as they might tell it, “storytellers”—for weddings near and far. Culling from their creative background—he was into music and filmmaking and she was an artist with a strong interest in anthropology—they soon gave birth to Sun + Life Photography and, in a relatively short amount of time, began gaining accolades.

Big ones.

cover Doriana Jeff-6Jeff and Doriana HammondTheir most recent triumph came from Rangefinder Magazine, which named their business one of the “30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography.” And now, locals can explore more about their work, too—the duo will be opening up a studio space in Soquel (2912 Daubenbiss Ave. in Soquel Village). The space will be used as their haven in which to edit images and meet with clients. They hope to host several First Friday art nights eventually and partner with other creative beings to hold trunk-shows and events.

GT caught up with the couple on the official kick-off of wedding season to learn more about their craft (peruse their photography on the following pages) and, well, love.

GOOD TIMES: Tell us a little more about how you two met?

Jeff: I was doing documentary work and was at Cabrillo College and a mutual friend was in town for a few months, and  introduced us. We met and fell in love.

Doriana: I had taken visual anthropology at Cal State Monterey Bay and also photo classes at Cabrillo College. Jeff had been planning on moving to Central America, and we were both working at nonprofit jobs at the time. He talked me into going with him. We spent a year there, working with different organizations and documenting some community affairs before coming home in August of 2010.


Jeff: We were at the height of a pretty big recession and we wanted to find a way where we could continue doing what we love and stay creative and working for ourselves. A lot

of Millennials did not have access to the job market because of the recession, so we found ourselves in that boat, and realized it was very difficult to get a job in town. So we wanted to create something where we can both continue working together.

Doriana: … and continue with our photography and being able to stay creative. We had friends who were planning to do their wedding about the time we moved back and they had said, ‘Would it be possible for you to document our

wedding?’ Our very first experience we shot was in the Sierras and it was this amazing, backcountry wedding where we had to four-wheel drive out to it. We are realizing now that weddings are awesome. They are this amazing expression of couples’ personality and style and what they are really into.  We really enjoyed the storytelling involved in weddings. A careful blend of portraiture and photojournalism.


Doriana:  Definitely living in the Santa Cruz area, we have access to redwoods—these beautiful outdoor redwood groves, a cathedral of trees … That’s something that we’ve shot a lot of because of the nature of our environment here.

Jeff:  And also in San Francisco, Café Du Nord …

Doriana:  They were a really interesting couple that met at

a bookstore and were into theater and art and they set up their wedding like a play. They built this elaborate backdrop.

Jeff: The cellists playing versions of Slayer and different versions of punk rock metal songs.

coverA Sun and Life Photography Sun + Life Photography’s unique take on wedding photos prompted Rangefinder Magazine to name their enterprise one of the “30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography.”


Jeff: For one,  we are able to play off of each other’s strengths.

Doriana: And it really helps having a male and female

perspective in this industry. We planned our wedding in 2012 and it was interesting to be on the other side of it—just being a bride and a groom ourselves, we understand the process and what we look for in a photographer.


Doriana: I would say it’s really important for a couple to get a sense of a photographer’s general aesthetic. Be sure you look through an entire gallery of images of an entire

wedding day so you see whether that person is going to capture a story from start to finish. Your couple is bringing their style and the photographer is bringing their art. You’re

creating art together. You have to be comfortable with the photographer and know that they can capture your style.

Jeff: With such a great variety of different photographers out there and so much talent, it’s really important to find

a style that really fits you.


Doriana: We try to shoot for more fun, spontaneous. And our main goal is to capture our couples as natural and organically as we want them. We don’t want our imagery

to feel posed. We want it to have a sort of movement and vibrancy to it that captures those kind of in-between moments—more modern imagery.

Jeff: And even when we do pose our couples, we want it feel like viewing a moment rather than a very posed image of the couple.

cover1a Sun and Life PhotographySun + Life Photography finds settings that are off the beaten track to photograph lovebirds.

cover2 Sun and Life Photography


Jeff: That it’s never the same, even if it is the same

location. What the couples bring to it is so different.

Doriana: And for me, since I studied anthropology, I really love being part of such an instant day in a sampling of life. And seeing the many ways that it’s handled.

Jeff: It really is like an anthropological study …

Doriana: Every weekend.


Doriana: Well, that there are all different shapes and sizes and kinds of love and … it doesn’t just fit into a box.

Learn more about Jeff and Doriana—and their work—by visiting, or email them at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Studio location: 2912 Daubenbiss Ave. in Soquel Village.

cover3Ready for an Eden-like setting (left) or big wave on the wedding day?cover4cover5These black-and-white shots from Sun + Life Photography inspire.cover6

Comments (4)Add Comment
Good for you two!
written by Carol Lane, March 15, 2014
Great Article, Nice Pictures. Good Luck on the new Studio! What a great story Happily Ever After !! You guys keep up the fun that's great, that's all you can ask for today a hobby you love as your job! You guys will Soar! Sky's the limit! Cheers...
written by Dan Nunez, January 24, 2014
The first and second photos and the couple sitting on the Rock in the river really catch the true meaning of the moment. No glitz,no overly done glamour! You can see how these couples feel for eachother.
Breaking the mold!
written by Kimberly Gadette, January 24, 2014
Kudos to this wonderfully creative couple who not only figured out a career out of thin air, but who give people memories to hold on to for as long as they live! Wow ...
written by diana mcgregor, January 23, 2014
What a wonderful article. I absolutely love Jeff and Dori's style and they are such great people. Congrats you two!!

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